Larry Garner Larry Garner

Larry Garner was comfortable in the 9-to-5 routine of commuting to his day job, and making a good salary working for Dow Chemical. On his drive home one night, he was forced to take an alternate route. “There was an accident on the interstate, and I took a detour to avoid it,” remembers Garner. “I drove by this place that had a sign outside on wheels, with a couple lights that said, ‘Blues Jam Tonight.’ I went in, and they said to be back at 10 that night. I went home and told my wife about it. She said, ‘You know you’ve got to go to work tomorrow.’ I went anyway, played, and got home at 2:30 in the morning. That was Tabby’s Blues Box.”

The scene at the legendary Baton Rouge blues hotbed was a marked contrast to the occasional weekend gigs Garner was playing at the time. It was the early 1970s, and Garner had just returned from an 3 year tour in the army. “There were no gigs,” he remembers. “It was all disco. There were occasionally American Legion gigs or weddings or rent parties. I played in my garage. I took a job with Dow Chemical, and I rarely played in public.”

Garner started moonlighting for the first few years he played out at Tabby’s Blues Box. He met such Baton Rouge bluesmen as Silas Hogan, Whispering Smith, Arthur Kelly and Raful Neal. He occasionally played in New Orleans at Rhythms on Bourbon Street, or with Bryan Lee at the late, lamented Old Absinthe Bar. But eventually he couldn’t keep burning the candle at both ends. He recalls hanging out at Tabby’s one night with Kenny Neal, who’d just finished touring. When Neal pleaded with him to stick around for another drink instead of getting ready for work in the morning, Garner tried to explain. “He said, ‘You got to quit that job.’ I said, ‘I know, but I still got to go to work in the morning.’ I left, but Kenny saying that stuck in my head. I had to quit.”

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